My Thoughts. . .
“Sometime later Paul said to Barnabas, ‘Let us go back and visit the brothers in all the towns where we preached the word of the Lord and see how they are doing.’ Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, . . . He went through Syria and Cilicia, strengthening the churches” (Acts 15:36-41).
Can you imagine two Christian evangelist having a “sharp disagreement” (contention, KJV) between them resulting in them “parting company.” Remember, Barnabas went to Saul who was a new convert and got him to work with him in Antioch where they taught a “great number” of people (Acts 11:22-24). That work and relationship ended with this disagreement. Barnabas wanted to take John Mark, who was related to him, with them to evangelize. Paul adamantly opposed that plan. Why? Mark had left them prematurely on their first missionary journey (Acts 12:24; 13:13).
The expression “sharp disagreement/contention” is from the Greek word paroxysm meaning to “dispute in anger, be contentious, or to provoke or stir up.” Luke adds the word “sharp” to this word. It is not a conversation where Barnabas says, “Let’s take my relative Mark with us on our planned tour” with Paul responding, “Mark is an excellent choice, but I’ve already asked Silas.” The words “sharp” and “dispute in anger” indicates these two were poles apart on who would accompany them. Paul had no confidence in Mark. It ended with Paul taking Silas and going one direction while Barnabas took John Mark and went in another.
God used both in their chosen direction, even though both believed the other was wrong while they were right. Mark proved his worth because later Paul wrote to Timothy stating “Luke alone is with me. Get Mark and bring him with you; for he is very useful in serving me” (2 Timothy 4:11). Barnabas gave Mark the opportunity to prove himself. Paul’s refusal to give Mark a “second chance” could have forever soured their relationship. Paul could have stood by his decision and refused to recognize Mark’s worth as an evangelist or writer. Not too much is recorded about Barnabas after this episode but look at the world of good he did by encouraging Mark. Without that support, Mark may not have been used by the Holy Spirit to write the Gospel of Mark. How often do we destroy a friendship or work-related relationship due to anger or having the wrong impression?